InteractiveFly: GeneBrief

grindelwald: Biological Overview | References

Gene name - grindelwald

Synonyms - CG10176

Cytological map position - 36F5-36F5

Function - transmembrane receptor

Keywords - tumour necrosis factor receptor, JNK signalling, integrates apoptotic functions from Eiger with signaling from apical polarity determinants to induce JNK-dependent cell death or tumour growth

Symbol - grnd

FlyBase ID: FBgn0032682

Genetic map position - chr2L:18485417-18487710

Classification - tumour necrosis factor receptor (TNFR) superfamily

Cellular location - cytoplasmic

NCBI links: Precomputed BLAST | EntrezGene

Recent literature
Agrawal, N., Delanoue, R., Mauri, A., Basco, D., Pasco, M., Thorens, B. and Leopold, P. (2016). The Drosophila TNF Eiger is an adipokine that acts on insulin-producing cells to mediate nutrient response. Cell Metab 23: 675-684. PubMed ID: 27076079
Adaptation of organisms to ever-changing nutritional environments relies on sensor tissues and systemic signals. Identification of these signals would help understand the physiological crosstalk between organs contributing to growth and metabolic homeostasis. This study shows that Eiger, the Drosophila TNF-alpha, is a metabolic hormone that mediates nutrient response by remotely acting on insulin-producing cells (IPCs). In the condition of nutrient shortage, a metalloprotease of the TNF-alpha converting enzyme (TACE) family is active in fat body (adipose-like) cells, allowing the cleavage and release of adipose Eiger in the hemolymph. In the brain IPCs, Eiger activates its receptor Grindelwald, leading to JNK-dependent inhibition of insulin production. Therefore, this study has identified a humoral connexion between the fat body and the brain insulin-producing cells relying on TNF-alpha that mediates adaptive response to nutrient deprivation.
Ratheesh, A., Biebl, J., Vesela, J., Smutny, M., Papusheva, E., Krens, S. F. G., Kaufmann, W., Gyoergy, A., Casano, A. M. and Siekhaus, D. E. (2018). Drosophila TNF modulates tissue tension in the embryo to facilitate macrophage invasive migration. Dev Cell 45(3): 331-346.e337. Pubmed ID: 29738712
Migrating cells penetrate tissue barriers during development, inflammatory responses, and tumor metastasis. This study examined whether migration in vivo in such three-dimensionally confined environments requires changes in the mechanical properties of the surrounding cells using embryonic Drosophila melanogaster hemocytes, also called macrophages, as a model. Macrophage invasion into the germband through transient separation of the apposing ectoderm and mesoderm requires cell deformations and reductions in apical tension in the ectoderm. Interestingly, the genetic pathway governing these mechanical shifts acts downstream of the only known tumor necrosis factor superfamily member in Drosophila, Eiger, and its receptor, Grindelwald. Eiger-Grindelwald signaling reduces levels of active Myosin in the germband ectodermal cortex through the localization of a Crumbs complex component, Patj (Pals-1-associated tight junction protein). This study therefore elucidates a distinct molecular pathway that controls tissue tension and demonstrate the importance of such regulation for invasive migration in vivo.


Disruption of epithelial polarity is a key event in the acquisition of neoplastic growth. JNK signalling is known to play an important part in driving the malignant progression of many epithelial tumours, although the link between loss of polarity and JNK signalling remains elusive. In a Drosophila genome-wide genetic screen designed to identify molecules implicated in neoplastic growth, this study identified grindelwald (grnd; CG10176), a gene encoding a transmembrane protein with homology to members of the tumour necrosis factor receptor (TNFR) superfamily. This study shows that Grnd mediates the pro-apoptotic functions of Eiger (Egr), the unique Drosophila TNF, and that overexpression of an active form of Grnd lacking the extracellular domain is sufficient to activate JNK signalling in vivo. Grnd also promotes the invasiveness of RasV12/scrib-/- tumours through Egr-dependent Matrix metalloprotease-1 (Mmp1) expression. Grnd localizes to the subapical membrane domain with the cell polarity determinant Crumbs (Crb) and couples Crb-induced loss of polarity with JNK activation and neoplastic growth through physical interaction with Veli (also known as Lin-7). Therefore, Grnd represents the first example of a TNFR that integrates signals from both Egr and apical polarity determinants to induce JNK-dependent cell death or tumour growth (Andersen, 2015).

A genome-wide screen was carried to identify molecules that are required for neoplastic growth. The condition used for this screen was the disc-specific knockdown of avalanche, also known as syntaxin 7), a gene encoding a syntaxin that functions in the early step of endocytosis2. avl-RNAi results in ectopic Wingless (Wg) expression, neoplastic disc overgrowth, and a 2-day delay in larva-to-pupa transition. A collection of 10,100 transgenic RNA interference (RNAi) lines were screened for their ability to rescue the pupariation delay, and 121 candidate genes were identified. Interestingly, only eight candidate genes also rescued ectopic Wg expression and neoplastic overgrowth. These included five lines targeting core components of the JNK pathway (Bendless, Tab2, Tak1, Hemipterous and Basket. Using a puckered enhancer trap (puc-lacZ) as a readout for JNK activity, it was confirmed that JNK signalling is highly upregulated in avl-RNAi discs. One of the remaining lines targets CG10176, a gene encoding a transmembrane protein. Reducing expression of CG10176 by using two different RNAi lines was as efficient as tak1 silencing to restore normal Wg pattern and suppresses JNK signalling and neoplastic growth in the avl-RNAi background. Sequence analysis of GC10176 identified a cysteine-rich domain (CRD) in the extracellular part with homology to vertebrate TNFRs harbouring a glycosphingolipid-binding motif (GBM) characteristic of many TNFRs including Fas. CG10176 was named grindelwald (grnd) , after a village at the foot of Eiger, a Swiss mountain that lent its name to the unique Drosophila TNF, Egr. Immunostaining and subcellular fractionation of disc extracts confirmed that Grnd localizes to the membrane. Moreover, co-immunoprecipitation experiments showed that both Grnd full-length and Grnd-intra, a form lacking its extracellular domain, directly associate with Traf2, the most upstream component of the JNK pathway. This interaction is disrupted by a single amino acid substitution within a conserved Traf6-binding motif (human TRAF6 is the closest homologue to Traf2. Overexpression of Grnd-intra, but not full-length Grnd, is sufficient to induce JNK signalling, ectopic Wg expression and apoptosis, and Grnd-intra-induced apoptosis is efficiently suppressed in a hep (JNKK) mutant background, confirming that Grnd acts upstream of the JNK signalling cascade (Andersen, 2015).

The Drosophila TNF Egr activates JNK signalling and triggers cell death or proliferation, depending on the cellular context. Therefore tests were performed to see whether Grnd is required for the small-eye phenotype generated by Egr-induced apoptosis in the retinal epithelium (via Egr overexpression). Inhibition of JNK signalling by reducing tak1 or traf2 expression, or by overexpressing puckered, blocks Egr-induced apoptosis and rescues the small-eye phenotype. In contrast to a previous report, RNAi silencing of wengen (wgn) , a gene encoding a presumptive receptor for Egr, does not rescue the small-eye phenotype. Furthermore, the small-eye phenotype is not modified in a wgn-null mutant background, confirming that Wgn is not required for Egr-induced apoptosis in the eye. By contrast, reducing grnd levels partially rescues the Egr-induced small-eye phenotype, producing a 'hanging-eye' phenotype that is not further rescued in a wgn-knockout mutant background. A similar phenotype was previously reported as a result of non-autonomous cell death induced by a diffusible form of Egr. This suggests that Grnd prevents Egr from diffusing outside of its expression domain. Co-immunoprecipitation experiments show that both full-length Grnd and Grnd-extra, a truncated form of Grnd lacking the cytoplasmic domain, associate with Egr through its TNF-homology domain. Although Grnd-extra can bind Egr, it cannot activate JNK signalling. Therefore, it was reasoned that Grnd-extra expression might prevent both cell-autonomous and non-autonomous apoptosis by trapping Egr and preventing its diffusion and binding to endogenous Grnd. Indeed, GMR-Gal4-mediated expression of grnd-extra fully rescues the Egr small-eye phenotype. To confirm that the removal of Grnd induces Egr-mediated non-autonomous cell death, wing disc clones were generated expressing egr alone, egr + tak1 RNAi, or egr + grnd RNAi. As expected, reducing tak1 levels in egr-expressing clones prevents their elimination by apoptosis. Similarly, reducing grnd levels prevents autonomous cell death, but also induces non-autonomous apoptosis. This suggests that Egr, like its mammalian counterpart TNF-α, can be processed into a diffusible form in vivo whose interaction with Grnd limits the potential to act at a distance. Flies carrying homozygous (grndMinos/Minos) or transheterozygous (grndMinos/Df) combinations of a transposon inserted in the grnd locus express no detectable levels of Grnd protein and are equally resistant to Egr-induced cell death. In addition, grndMinos/Minos mutant flies are viable and display no obvious phenotype, suggesting that Grnd, like Egr, participates in a stress response to limit organismal damage. Collectively, these data demonstrate that Grnd is a new Drosophila TNF receptor that mediates most, if not all, Egr-induced apoptosis (Andersen, 2015).

TNFs probably represent a danger signal produced in response to tissue damage to rid the organism of premalignant tissue or to facilitate wound healing. Disc clones mutant for the polarity gene scribbled (scrib) induce an Egr-dependent response resulting in the elimination of scrib mutant cells by JNK-mediated apoptosis. To test the requirement for Grnd in this process, scrib-RNAi and scrib-RNAi + grnd-RNAi clones obtained 72 h after heat shock induction were compared. As expected, scrib-RNAi cells undergo apoptosis and detach from the epithelium. By contrast, scrib-RNAi clones with reduced grnd expression survive, indicating that Grnd is required for Egr-dependent elimination of scrib-RNAi cells. Similar results were obtained by generating scrib mutant clones in the eye disc (Andersen, 2015).

In both mammals and flies, TNFs are double-edged swords that also have the capacity to promote tumorigenesis in specific cellular contexts. Indeed, scrib minus eye disc cells expressing an activated form of Ras (RasV12) exhibit a dramatic tumour-like overgrowth and metastatic behaviour, a process that critically relies on Egr. RasV12/scrib-/- metastatic cells show a strong accumulation of Grnd and Mmp1, and invade the ventral nerve cord. Primary tumour cells reach peripheral tissues such as the fat body and the gut, where they form micro-metastases expressing high levels of Grnd. Reducing grnd levels in RasV12/scrib-/- clones is sufficient to restore normal levels of Mmp1 and abolish invasiveness in a way similar to that observed in an egr mutant background. Therefore, Grnd is required for the Egr-induced metastatic behaviour of RasV12/scrib-/- tumorous cells. Similarly, reducing grnd, but not wgn levels, strongly suppresses Mmp1 expression in RasV12/dlg-RNAi cells and limits tumour invasion, indicating that Wgn does not have a major role in the progression of these tumours (Andersen, 2015).

Perturbation of cell polarity is an early hallmark of tumour progression in epithelial cells. In contrast to small patches of polarity-deficient cells, for example, scrib mutant clones, organ compartments or animals fully composed of polarity-deficient cells become refractory to Egr-induced cell death and develop epithelial tumours. The formation of these tumours requires JNK/MAPK signalling, but not Egr, suggesting Egr-independent coupling between loss of polarity and JNK/MAPK-dependent tumour growth. In line with these observations, it was noticed that, in contrast to Grnd, Egr is not required to drive neoplastic growth in avl-RNAi conditions. This suggests that, in addition to its role in promoting Egr-dependent functions, Grnd couples loss of polarity with JNK-dependent growth independently of Egr. Disc immunostainings revealed that Grnd co-localizes with the apical determinant Crb in the marginal zone, apical to the adherens junction protein E-cadherin (E-cad) and the atypical protein kinase C (aPKC). In avl-RNAi discs, Grnd and Crb accumulate in a wider apical domain. Apical accumulation of Crb is proposed to be partly responsible for the neoplastic growth induced by avl knockdown, since overexpression of Crb or a membrane-bound cytoplasmic tail of Crb (Crb-intra) mimics the avl-RNAi phenotype. Therefore whether Grnd might couple the activity of the Crb complex with JNK-mediated neoplastic growth was examined. Indeed, reducing grnd levels, but not wgn, in ectopic crb-intra discs suppresses neoplastic growth as efficiently as inhibiting the activity of the JNK pathway. Notably, Yki activation is not rescued in these conditions, illustrating the ability of Crb-intra to promote growth independently of Grnd by inhibiting Hippo signalling through its FERM-binding motif (FBM). Indeed, neoplastic growth and polarity defects induced by a form of Crb-intra lacking its FBM (CrbΔFBM-intra) are both rescued by Grnd silencing. As expected, the size of ectopic crbΔFBM-intra;grnd-RNAi discs is reduced compared to the size of ectopic crb-intra; grnd-RNAi discs (Andersen, 2015).

Crb, Stardust (Sdt; PALS1 in humans), and Pals1-associated tight junction protein (Patj) make up the core Crb complex, which recruits the adaptor protein Veli (MALS1-3 in humans). In agreement with previous yeast two-hybrid data, this study found that Grnd binds directly and specifically to the PDZ domain of Veli through a membrane-proximal stretch of 28 amino acids in its intracellular domain. Grnd localization is unaffected in crb and veli RNAi mutant clones. However, reducing veli expression rescues the patterning defects and disc morphology of ectopic crb-intra mutant cells, suggesting that Grnd couples Crb activity with JNK signalling through its interaction with Veli. Interestingly, aPKC-dependent activation of JNK signalling also depends on Grnd. aPKC is capable of directly binding and phosphorylating Crb, which is important for Crb function. This suggests that aPKC, either directly or through Crb phosphorylation, activates Grnd-dependent JNK signalling in response to perturbation of apico-basal polarity (Andersen, 2015).

These data are consistent with a model whereby Grnd integrates signals from Egr, the unique fly TNF, and apical polarity determinants to induce JNK-dependent neoplastic growth or apoptosis in a context-dependent manner. Recent work reveals a correlation between mammalian Crb3 expression and tumorigenic potential in mouse kidney epithelial cells. The conserved nature of the Grnd receptor suggests that specific TNFRs might carry out similar functions in vertebrates, in which the link between apical cell polarity and tumour progression remains elusive (Andersen, 2015).

Drosophila tumor suppressor gene prevents tonic TNF signaling through receptor N-glycosylation

Drosophila tumor suppressor genes have revealed molecular pathways that control tissue growth, but mechanisms that regulate mitogenic signaling are far from understood. This study reports that the Drosophila TSG tumorous imaginal discs (tid), whose phenotypes were previously attributed to mutations in a DnaJ-like chaperone, are in fact driven by the loss of the N-linked glycosylation pathway component ALG3. tid/alg3 imaginal discs display tissue growth and architecture defects that share characteristics of both neoplastic and hyperplastic mutants. Tumorous growth is driven by inhibited Hippo signaling, induced by excess Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) activity. Ectopic JNK activation is caused by aberrant glycosylation of a single protein, the fly tumor necrosis factor (TNF) receptor homolog, Grindelwald, which results in increased binding to the continually circulating TNF. These results suggest that N-linked glycosylation sets the threshold of TNF receptor signaling by modifying ligand-receptor interactions and that cells may alter this modification to respond appropriately to physiological cues (de Vreede, 2018).

Tumorigenesis is ultimately driven by dysregulated cellular signaling that promotes unchecked proliferation. Proliferation-regulating signaling pathways in animals are therefore normally under tight control, to prevent aberrant growth. The primary mechanism of signaling regulation is limited availability of ligand, although levels of receptor can also be regulated, as can receptor availability on the plasma membrane or even its polarized localization. A full understanding of the mechanisms that limit mitogenic signaling is an important goal of both basic biology and cancer research (de Vreede, 2018).

Major insight into growth regulation has arisen from research in model organisms such as Drosophila melanogaster. For instance, Drosophila studies revealed key steps of receptor tyrosine kinase signaling and uncovered the phenomenon of cell competition. Additional insight into growth regulatory mechanisms has come from the analysis of fly tumor suppressor genes (TSGs). Disruption of a single fly TSG is sufficient to cause overproliferation in epithelial organs of the larva called imaginal discs. Initial genetic screens identified several classes of fly TSGs. The neoplastic TSGs (discs large, lethal giant larvae, and scribble) revealed an intimate link between cell polarity and cell proliferation control, a principle also relevant to human cancers. The hyperplastic TSGs, including hippo, warts, and salvador, uncovered the novel Hippo (Hpo) signal transduction pathway, which is now recognized as a conserved growth control mechanism. Even less prominent Drosophila TSGs such as lethal giant discs have demonstrated important biological concepts (de Vreede, 2018).

One classic Drosophila TSG that remains understudied is tumorous imaginal discs (tid). Imaginal discs of tid homozygous larvae develop into overgrown masses. Genetic mapping and cytogenetic analyses attributed this phenotype to loss of a conserved molecular chaperone of the DnaJ family. Evidence for a tumor-suppressive role for a mammalian homolog, hTid-1, has been presented. However, the exact molecular mechanism through which tid could regulate cell and tissue proliferation remains mysteriou (de Vreede, 2018 and references therein).

This study reports that the tid gene was cloned incorrectly. Aberrant cell proliferation in the Drosophila mutant arises not from disruptions to the DnaJ homolog but rather to an adjacent gene that encodes the mannosyltransferase ALG3, involved in N-linked glycosylation. Overgrowth in tid/ALG3 mutants is caused by mis-glycosylation of a single transmembrane protein, the Drosophila tumor necrosis factor (TNF) receptor homolog Grindelwald, which results in downstream activation of Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) and inactivation of the growth-suppressing Hpo pathway. The results suggest that this post-translational modification modulates ligand-receptor affinity in the TNF receptor (TNFR) pathway and thus provides a regulatory mechanism setting a dynamic threshold for JNK-mediated stress signaling and growth control (de Vreede, 2018).

This study has shown that mutations in the classic Drosophila TSG tumorous imaginal discs (tid) disrupt the ALG3 homolog CG4084, altering the lipid-linked biosynthetic pathway that generates oligosaccharides for protein N-linked glycosylation. Although altered glycosylation affects many proteins and can induce a unfolded protein response (UPR), this study finds that the growth control phenotype of Alg3 can be ascribed to a single target and a single mechanism. This target is the Drosophila TNFR homolog, whose proper modification at a single extracellular site is required to prevent inappropriate TNF binding, subsequent JNK activation, and downstream Yki-driven overproliferation. It is postulated that N-glycosylation can act as a mechanism to modulate JNK signaling in response to cellular stresses (de Vreede, 2018).

The alg3 mutations were originally identified for their overgrowth phenotype in imaginal discs. Like most other Drosophila TSGs, this phenotype is caused by changes in Hpo-regulated Yki activation, but alg3 mutants differ in both upstream regulation and downstream targets. Mutations in core Hpo signaling components result in rapid proliferation of disc cells, while the slow growth of alg3 mutant tissue resembles that of the neoplastic TSGs. Nonetheless, the STAT pathway, which is a major mitogenic effector in neoplastic mutants, is not elevated in alg3 tissue. Upstream, JNK-dependent Yki activity is seen in both alg3 and neoplastic mutants. However, JNK activation in neoplastic mutants has been suggested to occur either through ligand-independent Grnd activation caused by alteration to apicobasal polarity or through Grnd-independent mechanisms. In alg3 mutants, polarity is intact and overgrowth entirely relies on a Grnd-Egr axis, specifically the increased sensitivity of misglycosylated Grnd for endocrine Egr. Thus, TNFR signaling induced by altered N-glycosylation seems to define distinct consequences for downstream Hpo-mediated growth control (de Vreede, 2018).

While this study has not tested biochemical affinities directly, the data are consistent with a model where TNF-binding properties are directly regulated by glycosylation of TNFR. Partial or complete removal of the glycan at N63, within the ligand-binding domain of Grnd, leads to an increase of bound Egr, indicating that N-glycosylation normally limits Grnd engagement and downstream signaling. In Drosophila larvae, Egr is continuously transcribed in the fat body for secretion into the hemolymph, bathing Grnd-expressing tissues, including imaginal discs and IPCs in ligand. The results suggest that proper N-glycosylation of Grnd sets a threshold that prevents tonic signaling in these and other tissues under normal circumstances. This raises the intriguing possibility that cell-autonomous changes in N-glycosylation, perhaps induced by stress inputs, could modulate ligand affinity, allowing a rapid and local response to this endocrine signal under different physiological conditions (de Vreede, 2018).

The modulation of Grnd ligand binding suggested here echoes the regulation of Notch by the glycosyltransferase Fringe. However, the obligate role of Alg3 in all N-glycan synthesis is fundamentally distinct from Fringe's substrate-specific elaboration of a particular O-glycan. In the case of Notch, the specific sugar residues added by Fringe alter receptor selectivity for one ligand over another. Since either aberrant or absent Grnd N-glycosylation results in increased ligand binding and ectopic signaling, evidence for specific glycan structures in modulating the ligand-receptor interface does not currently exist. Whether the glycan could provide a simple steric obstacle to ligand binding or may regulate it through more complex interactions will await structural studies (de Vreede, 2018).

Grnd shows strong homology to vertebrate TNFR family members in its extracellular TNF-binding domain, although downstream signaling in the fly acts mainly through JNK, in contrast to mammalian homologs that also signal through nuclear factor κB (NF-κB), p38, and caspases. Among the 29 mammalian TNFR superfamily members, at least seven have predicted N-glycosylation sites in their extracellular domains. Several of these sites have been studied, and their proposed roles vary from promoting signaling to inhibiting it or being functionally neutral. The current results motivate analyses of the receptors BCMA and DR4, which are closely related to Grnd and whose predicted N-glycosylation sites each lie in an analogous location within the ligand-binding domain (de Vreede, 2018 and references therein).

The data presented above, which highlight a new mechanism for restraining TNF signaling, hint at pathogenic mechanisms for several human diseases. Altered glycosylation is emerging as a frequent hallmark of cancer, in which JNK signaling is increasingly implicated. Moreover, mutations in the extracellular domain of human TNFR1, including predicted N-glycosylation sites, can cause the autoinflammatory disease TRAPS (TNFR-associated periodic syndrome). Because the erroneous activation of Grnd in alg3 mutants is akin to an autoinflammatory response, defective N-glycosylation could be an additional mechanism for hyperactive TNFR1 signaling. Finally, mutations in N-glycosylation pathway enzymes including Alg3 result in recessive genetic diseases called type I congenital disorders of glycosylation (CDG-I). CDG patients exhibit a variety of poorly characterized symptoms associated with multiple organs, and the etiology of CDG is largely unknown. The finding of altered inflammatory TNFR/JNK signaling in analogous fly mutants provides a new avenue to investigate (de Vreede, 2018).


Search PubMed for articles about Drosophila Grindelwald

Andersen, D. S., Colombani, J., Palmerini, V., Chakrabandhu, K., Boone, E., Rothlisberger, M., Toggweiler, J., Basler, K., Mapelli, M., Hueber, A. O. and Leopold, P. (2015). The Drosophila TNF receptor Grindelwald couples loss of cell polarity and neoplastic growth. Nature. PubMed ID: 25874673

de Vreede, G., Morrison, H. A., Houser, A. M., Boileau, R. M., Andersen, D., Colombani, J. and Bilder, D. (2018). A Drosophila tumor suppressor gene prevents tonic TNF signaling through receptor N-glycosylation. Dev Cell 45(5): 595-605 PubMed ID: 29870719

Biological Overview

date revised: 2 December 2018

Home page: The Interactive Fly © 2011 Thomas Brody, Ph.D.